The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics with Training Camp less than two weeks away:
The NFC East is the best quarterback division in the league.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I have to go with the NFC South. Drew Brees is still better than any quarterback in the NFC East, and of the eight starting quarterbacks I would rate Carson Wentz as the worst of the bunch. Cam Newton is a former MVP. Jameis Winston is an up and coming young quarterback, and Matt Ryan just led his team to the Super Bowl in a career year. Brees, Ryan and Newton have all been Offensive Players of the Year. Eli Manning leads everyone in Super Bowls, but that isn't the question. I really like Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins, but they don't have the resumes of Brees, Ryan and Newton.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - In a year or two, I think this statement will be "fact" once again. Dak Prescott is the reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Carson Wentz, the second pick in last year's draft, could take a major leap in Year 2. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins has proven he can put up some big numbers. And Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who is going to be close to – if not in – the top of every major passing category of all time. But from top to bottom, right now, I'll agree with John and Lance and go with the NFC South.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The NFC East has plenty of depth at quarterback as all four teams have solid options under center including Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, who are both coming off impressive rookie campaigns. With that being said, Prescott and Wentz only have one season under their belts. That limited experience puts the NFC East right behind the NFC South which showcases a handful of polished veterans at quarterback. That division has Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees, who each have at least six seasons in the league and decorated resumes. Those three have combined for three Super Bowl appearances and 17 Pro Bowl selections and Newton (2015) and Ryan (2016) represent the NFL's last two MVPs respectively. Jameis Winston rounds out the division and although he has just two years of experience, he's improved in each of those two seasons and, as a result of his play, the Bucs are on the rise in the NFC.
*The best opposing quarterback on the schedule is Oakland's Derek Carr. *
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Derek Carr, coming off 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions last year with nearly 4,000 yards, wins this contest, but it is really close. Philip Rivers has an excellent track record, and if he had Carr's offensive line he might be at the top of this list. Matthew Stafford is another option, but like Rivers, he doesn't have the weapons that Carr does to pass him on this list. Cousins and Prescott have to be considered here too, but I don't think either hits Carr's combination of skill and talent around him. Jameis Winston, if he has a breakout system, would be the sleeper player on this list.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Everyone gets infatuated with the new thing, but let's not forget about guys like Matthew Stafford and, oh yeah, Russell Wilson. Stafford averages 278.0 yards per game, second all-time among quarterbacks with at least 100 games (Drew Brees is No. 1). Meanwhile, Wilson is 64-27-1 as a starter, including two Super Bowl appearances and one title. Sure, the defense has a lot to do with it, but he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 127-45. He also has 13 touchdowns and 2,689 on the ground.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -There's a reason the Raiders recently rewarded Derek Carr with a lucrative five-year extension. That's because he's emerged as one of the most efficient signal callers in the league and has proven he's a franchise quarterback. In each of his first three seasons in the NFL, Carr's numbers have improved and he's coming off an impressive 2016 campaign in which he threw for 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions while completing nearly 64 percent of his passes. You also can't overlook Carr's mobility and the multitude of weapons around him including Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook and a solid offensive line. Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers deserve consideration but I give Carr the edge because of his versatility and the talent around him.
The Giants will lead the NFC East in overall yardage this season (rush + pass).
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -The Giants' talent on offense is undeniable, but there needs to be some extra thought here. Last year the Giants were LAST in the division in total yardage on offense, ranking 25th in the league at 331 yards per game. The Redskins were third in the NFL at over 403 yards per game, the Cowboys fifth at 377 yards per game, and the Eagles were 22nd at 337 yards per game. I'm fairly confident that the Giants finish ahead of the Eagles, but I'm not so sure about the Redskins and Cowboys. The Cowboys offense is intact, but the Redskins have seen turnover at receiver. It will be close, but I'll say the Giants finish second.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - They did so as recently as 2015, and I think they will again. Look at what they added to the passing game with Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram. The run game will only benefit from their arrivals while Paul Perkins steps into a larger role. This roster has too much talent to put up the numbers it did last year.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Last season, the Giants ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (88.2). In comparison, the Cowboys were second (149.8), Eagles 11th (113.3) and Redskins 21st (106). While I think the Giants run game will be more productive this season, I don't think the three other teams will drastically fall given the presence of Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas, the arrival of LeGarrette Blount in Philly and the likely combination of Robert Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine in Washington. With all three teams also showcasing dangerous passing attacks, I think it's going to be a challenge for the Giants to lead the division in overall yardage. Let's also not forget Washington (403.4 yards) and Dallas (376.7) finished third and fifth, respectively, in total offense in 2016 and both teams still have plenty of weapons across the board. The Eagles (337.4 yards) were 22nd in that category while the Giants finished 25th (330.7 yards).
Shane Vereen will finish third on the team in receptions.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -This is a good question, but I think the Giants top three in catches this year will be there three receivers. Eli Manning will spread the ball to all three, who will all be in the mix. I don't see Vereen breaking past 50 catches this year, and I'm fairly confident all three receivers will get past that number. Whether Vereen or Engram have more catches is an interesting question I would love to the answer to.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Speaking of 2015, Vereen finished third in this department that season. But that was before the Giants added Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins. Vereen is going to be a major factor – we saw how the offense struggled while he was injured last season – but third might be too high.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -In Shane Vereen's first season with the Giants in 2015, he finished second on the team in receptions with 59 behind Odell Beckham (96). That's really the only campaign we have to judge Vereen's production because he was limited to just five games, in 2016, due to injuries. When Vereen is healthy, he's extremely dangerous out of the backfield, as a receiver, and two years ago proved he can serve as a nice security blanket for Eli Manning. This season, I think Beckham and Brandon Marshall will be first and second, respectively, in receptions so the question is can he beat out Sterling Shepard, who collected 65 receptions as a rookie and finished second on the team in 2016. With Marshall and Evan Engram now in the mix, I can see Shepard's total slightly falling but I still think he'll finish with more catches than Vereen.